If you throw a rock in this business you’ll hit a writer who first fell in love with movies after seeing Star Wars for the first time (If you do, please, throw it hard). Most film news websites like AintItCool or CHUD got their start reporting on rumors about the Star Wars prequels, and at first the internet was a magical, Narnia-esque place where geeks and nerds could come together and celebrate their similar interests. But the cornerstone of all that nerd-dom was Star Wars.
When The Phantom Menace hit theaters in 1999 it went over as well as Confederate forces occupying Fort Sumter. From 1999 to 2005 the equivalent of the War Between the States ravished the internet. Some fans lied to themselves, convinced themselves it was good. Others sat on the fence, claiming it was alright. Others felt angry, and betrayed. Only recently has the fairly harmonious balance been reached again. But of course, the saga eventually had to come to Blu Ray, and the wounds inflicted on fans in the form of Jar Jar Binks and Jango Fett were ripped open anew.
Some writers, such as AV Club’s Keith Phipps, argued that Star Wars isn’t worth getting riled up over anymore. In his piece “Letting Go Of Star Wars”, Phipps asserts that instead of getting out of sorts over Lucas’ further changes, we should accept the films for what they were and move on. Appreciate them as stepping stones to a larger, more sophisticated world. Leave them in our cultural rear view mirror.
And I was close to agreeing with him.
But then I started reading a series of articles at HitFix.com by Drew McWeeny, a man whose work I’ve read for as long as I’ve been online and surfing for film news. In his “Film Nerd 2.0” column Drew shows classic genre pieces like The Dark Crystal or TRON to his young son, and of course he has recently been showing him the complete saga.
He started with A New Hope, then Empire, and then backtracked to show him Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. He just published the reaction to Revenge of the Sith tonight, and it honestly made me tear up a bit. I think this part gets me most:
“It’s one thing to be told that someone is a bad guy, but it’s another thing to watch a character that they had come to love and enjoy slowly crumble and turn to evil. For the first time, they understand that evil is not just something you call yourself, but a direct reflection of the choices you make. They watched Anakin Skywalker go from a happy child to a confused young man to a hero and a husband, and then they watched him throw it all away and kill everyone who trusted him, attacking his own pregnant wife, and finally ending up burnt and broken and locked forever inside a suit of metal, and it hurt them. And for the first time, seeing the way it played for them, it genuinely hurt me.”
Sometimes you just need a fresh perspective. For the first time I’m not seeing the prequels as something owed to me, something that should have been dark, gritty, or mature enough for my adult eyes. Instead I see them as the extension of a story and universe I loved more than anything when I was just a nine year old kid.
The common fanboy rage slogan is “George Lucas raped my childhood,” but that couldn’t be more wrong. George Lucas, along with Steven Spielberg, Jim Henson, and Walt Disney, gave me my childhood. And they gave me so much more. They gave me the gateway drug that led me to a lifetime of chasing the cinematic high that Star Wars gave me.
I was lucky enough to see A New Hope when it was re-released in theaters back in 1997. So technically, I’ve never seen the “original” Star Wars. but that doesn’t matter. My feelings of exhilaration are just as legitimate as those who saw the film on May 19th, 1977. And those who’ll see the film for the first time in 2015 and in 3D, they’ll get the wind knocked out of them too. And their exhilaration and joy will be just as valid as mine or the kids in ’77.
Like the Force itself, Star Wars surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds us nerds together. Its impact will never go away, even if we wanted it to. The characters, the light sabers, the quotes…it’s in our geek DNA.
The Force will be with us. Always.
Star Wars: Episode One: The Phantom Menace 3D comes to theaters February 10, 2012